By Beverly Hoback
President Trump has a plan to deal with school shootings. He suggests we arm teachers, but only the ones who show “aptitude,” mind you — about a fifth he figures.
They would be trained and given bonuses. He hasn’t mentioned how he’ll fund all of this. Maybe the NRA will pay just like Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Frankly, it sounds like the president has been watching too many reruns of “Gunsmoke.” He might benefit from reading a New York Times article from Dec. 9, 2007 that analyzed the accuracy of New York Police Department shootings from 2006. When officers fired at a suspect, they hit their target just 28.3 percent of the time.
As someone who has taught in public schools for 42 years, I have a pretty clear idea how arming teachers would actually play out. First, I’ll share with you information presented to teachers in my district by a deputy from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office during a recent safety training. He reported that when a shooter is walking down the halls of a school, if he tries a door and finds it locked he generally just keeps walking. Remember that information as I describe the likely outcome of teachers having guns in a school shooting event.
Imagine, if you will, 62-year-old second-grade teacher Ethel Snodgrass. Ethel could use that bonus so she signs up for the gun training, and sure enough, in the safety of the shooting range she does pretty well and gets her credentials. Next thing we know, Ethel has a Glock.
One day the unthinkable happens: a 19-year-old with a grudge and an AR-15 walks into her school and opens fire. Will Ethel, armed with a pistol, summon the courage to face an AR-15? Maybe she is unusually heroic and decides to accept this suicide mission. She runs into the hall, determined to take this guy down.
Remember what the deputy told us? A locked classroom door is the most important element in keeping students safe in the event of an active shooter. So when Ethel runs out in a state of sheer terror, will she remember to lock the door?
Ethel follows the sound of gunfire to a nearby wing. With adrenaline coursing through her veins, she has her finger on the trigger. So when Carl the custodian comes around the corner with his Glock stuck out in front of him, the first thing Ethel sees is his gun, and she shoots. Unless she has better aim than most of the New York City police department, she’s going to miss Carl, but her bullet will go right through the nearest classroom wall and nail a kindergartner on the other side.
Carl, meanwhile, wheels and shoots the moment Ethel’s bullet whizzes past him, and his aim is better than hers. Ethel falls dead. Horrified when he realizes what he’s done, Carl runs over, drops his Glock to check for signs of life, and gets shot as the gunman enters the hallway.
Meanwhile, what do you suppose is happening in Ethel’s classroom, where 25 seven-year-olds are now without a teacher? Did Ethel usher them into hiding spots around the room, as law enforcement recommends, or was she so busy unlatching the safety on her gun and trying to remember her extensive sharp-shooter training that she left them sitting in their seats?
Tommy, 7, begins to cry, yells, “I want my mommy!” and runs out the door. Half the class follows him. They do not shut the door behind them. The remaining half of the class sits frozen with fear.
Enter the police. With her dying breath the school secretary told the 911 dispatcher the assailant was a young male, tall, thin, and wearing a black hoodie. Unfortunately for Steve the PE teacher, he is also a young male, tall and thin, and he made the tragic decision that morning to wear his college crew team hoodie, which is black.
With hearts racing as they make their way through the halls, the police enter the darkened gym, and before Steve has a chance to identify himself, one police officer makes a mistake that will haunt him for the rest of his life. He sees Steve holding a gun and shoots him.
The actual gunman, of course, has made his way to Ethel’s classroom.
I try to keep an open mind when presented with another person’s viewpoint. I figure that even if they’re 90 percent wrong, I might learn something valuable from the 10 percent that’s right. But some ideas are just too ludicrous to treat with respect. Mr. Trump, I give your plan a grade of F.
Beverly Hoback lives in Arlington. She works for the Lakewood School District.